Mari-Liis Jakobson: Christmas tree and flowers on Women's Day

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Mari-Liis Jakobson. Source: Private collection

For me, Women's Day is not just a day for women but one for pondering the interaction of men and women in general. Standing up for women's rights is not a goal in itself as balanced societies are simply more efficient, Mari-Liis Jakobson finds in Vikerraadio's daily comment.

Allow me to begin with a riddle.

A little boy is injured in an accident. His father rushes him to the hospital where it is decided he needs surgery. The doctor who examined the boy admits they cannot perform the surgery because the patient is their son. How can this be?

Unlike many other countries in the world, the riddle is not a difficult one for Estonians. No paternity conflict or gay marriage involved. The doctor who examined the boy was simply his mother. Happy Women' Day everyone!

Things are well enough in Estonia when it comes to the input side of equality and have been for a long time. I felt it quite clearly during the last academic year that is mostly spent in the United States. I was quite baffled to learn that Yale, which is one of the country's leading universities, was celebrating the 50th anniversary of allowing women to study there.

I'm serious. Women were not allowed to attend Yale before 1969. Whereas Yale was hardly the last university to make the change. Women only started getting into Harvard in 1977!

A few more comparisons. Women were not allowed to open a bank account without permission from their husband or male relative before 1974. In West Germany, women needed permission from their husband to get a job until 1977.

However, we are a bit stuck when it comes to the output side of equality. This is reflected in the highest gender wage gap in the EU and the fact women spend twice as much time on household chores than men in Estonia.

Fragmentation in the labor market is also telling. Most essential workers who are most at risk from COVID-19 are women. Estonians are used to talking about doctors and teachers as women, not to mention people in the service sector.

And yet, when talking about compensation for coronavirus damages, we start with traders' losses and not cashiers' chances for protecting themselves.

Now, that medics and education workers are being vaccinated, perhaps it would be fair to offer the chance to grocery store cashiers? More so as supermarkets have become battlefields for people who feel – and I apologize for the graphic expression but I quote – that they are being raped when obligated to wear a mask.

For me, Women's Day is not just a day for women but one for pondering the interaction of men and women in general. Standing up for women's rights is not a goal in itself as balanced societies are simply more efficient. I'm sure that all event organizers have by now realized that an all-male panel of performers is not a good idea. While a debate panel made up entirely of women runs an equal risk of coming up short.

Therefore, you should definitely give women flowers on Women's Day! Just as you decorate your home with a spruce come Christmas – it has no practical value, while it is a nice thing to do.

Just as the more religious part of the population celebrates the birth of the savior during Christmas, while the rest simply take joy in spending time with the family and breathe a sigh of relief as the days start getting longer again, we could take a moment on Women's Day to ponder what kind of life and social position we want our daughters and mothers to have.

It is still okay to open doors for women and compliment how they look. As is the case for men.

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Editor: Marcus Turovski

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